November 30, 2015

Recent Reads

138. By the Book: Writers on Literature and the Literary Life from The New York Times Book Review
Edit: A friend asked me why not a higher rating. My response: I found myself skimming through many of the interviews as I was not particularly interested in the question asked and answered, and I thought some of the questions themselves rather silly. I did really love the interviews with some of my fave authors, but like all anthologies, there were many interviews that did not hit the mark for me.
The New York Times Book Review has a weekly By the Book feature in which writers are asked about the books and authors they love. This book collects sixty five of these interviews.

I've dipped into this book over the course of a couple of weeks and enjoyed it. It's like meeting up with a reader friend over drinks and talking about books, so if that's your thing too, you'll enjoy this one as well. An unexpected pleasure was the the wonderful author sketches by Jillian Tamaki.

I've found loads of book recommendations to add to my TBR list, and I wish the author had added an appendix with a summary of authors and their recommended books; you know that only book lovers are going to pick this up, and you know this is going to fatten up our TBRs, so why not make it easier on us? Rating: 3 stars.

139. An Absent Mind
Book blurb: The ticking time bomb is Saul Reimer's sanity. His Alzheimer's is going to be the catalyst that will either bring his family together or tear it apart. Although An Absent Mind depicts Saul's arduous struggle with Alzheimer's, it is equally a story about his relationship with his loved ones and their shared journey.

This novella is less than 200 pages, and is a really quick read, but knowing the subject matter, you know that there is no happily-ever-after at the end. I'm conflicted about how to rate this one, so will try to work it out in this review.

Reading this story was almost like reading a play with stage scenery and actors. The story is told from multiple points of view: Saul, his family, and a doctor. I quite liked that we get Saul's point of view as the disease progresses, and the fact that we also hear about key events from his wife and kids, means that the reader gets a more complete sense of the scene. 

The story cycles through the various narrators at a pretty fast clip, and each section is really short, sometimes only a paragraph or a single sentence in length. The writing is very straightforward with no flourishes of any kind, and my largest complaint is that the various voices sound exactly the same. If the sections had not been labeled I would have been hard pressed to tell them apart.

The author's father also had Alzheimer's, and I'm not sure how much of this novel is based on his personal experience, but it is clear that he wanted to help others understand more about the destruction left in the wake of this disease. I think he did a good job with that, but I felt at somewhat of an emotional remove as the story unfolded, and I think a large part of that was due to the writing itself.

If you have never read a book on this disease, this would be a good introduction, and if you have not yet read it, I would highly recommend Still Alice by Lisa Genova. Rating: 3 stars.

140. The Complete Hothead Paisan: Homicidal Lesbian Terrorist (Hothead Paisan #1-2)
The Complete Collection combines Hothead Paisan and Revenge of Hothead Paisan with new strips in a single volume for the first time.

Holy smokes, but how have I not read this before?

Are you old enough to remember zines? Ah, the good old days of subversive zines. That I missed reading this when I was younger is a pity. If you are looking for fine art and colored illustrations look elsewhere. If you are a person who still thinks that girls are made of sugar and spice and all things nice, what rock have you been living under?

This feminist, queer positive graphic novel, is comprised of black and white comic strips, with sketchy art, and a no-holds-barred-take-no-prisoners attitude, and is as fab and relevant today as when it was first published. As for Chicken, who does not love a cat who does yoga?

I have thoroughly enjoyed my travels to this fantasy world where sexists and homophones get what's coming to them. Why was this not made into a movie again? Rating: 5 stars.

141. Saga, Volume 5
Volume 5 collects issues #25-30. 

The excitement I feel when a new volume of Saga drops into my hands is one the fans of this series totally understand. All other books cease to exist, and I'm lost in this world for a while. 

In this installment, multiple stories collide, alliances are forged and broken, and the action is fast and furious. Loved many of the observations about parenting in this one. I'm already anticipating that day in the future when I'll sit down with the entire completed series and wallow in re-reading this story straight through. 

Now when is the next one due out again?  Rating: 4 stars.

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